Sunday, September 15, 2013

My Mission in Fiji Begins

We traveled two hours to Los Angeles and then waited seven hours in the airport during which time we met several interesting people: a young physics teacher from Australia who had just left Fiji and gave us his travel book; an LDS missionary returning from Alaska and going home for a short stay in Samoa before heading off to school at BYU—Hawaii; and an Indian Fijian woman named Nalini who lives in Oregon and was going home for a visit to Fiji. This is a photo of her and her cousin with whom we had lunch in Suva one day during her stay.

At about 11:00 p.m. we flew from LA to Nadi (pronounced Nandy) in Fiji. 
The flight lasted about 12 hours.

Our airplane was decorated with a tapa cloth design as can be seen the next day when we landed.

We were greeted by singing musicians. 
The Fijian people have beautiful voices and they seem to effortlessly sing in harmony.

We were also greeted by the “Airport Elders,” Elder Gadd and Elder Spackman. They helped us recheck our baggage, pay our fees, and visited with us while we waited for our flight to the Nausori airport which is near Suva. The missionary we met who was going home to Samoa had a very long layover in Nadi and so he was going to help the Fiji Elders do their missionary work. He didn’t want his mission to end! All the elders wear sulus—the traditional menswear in Fiji. These are dress sulus. There are also very colorful sulus for casual wear. They definitely are cooler and the missionaries all love them. I enjoy wearing skirts in Fiji for the same reason. So far, my grandsons have all rejected my offers to bring them home a sulu.

So let me add it up. We had been traveling (flying, layovers, and driving to and from airports) for 26 hours—and, did I mention, I had a head cold. We arrived Friday around 9 a.m., but it was Thursday back home about 2 p.m. We lost a day due to the International Dateline.  We were immediately put to work preparing a luncheon for the zone leaders. Sisters Klingler, Whiting, and Hogge (also from Mesa) are pictured.
Then I learned about entering financial transactions on the church software until 4:30 p.m. from my trainer, Sister Whiting, who I would be replacing. She and her husband took us to a nice hotel for our first night and then we went out to dinner with the mission president and his wife.  It was a very long “day,” but I survived and am alive to tell the tale. The Lord is blessing me already. Here is the patio style eating area of the hotel.

              It looks out on a serene view.

Here is a photo of President and Sister Klingler, Sister Limburg, and me. The Klinglers are from Mesa, Arizona and live near Val Vista and McKellips, but we had to go to Fiji before we met.
Here is the front of my office building. In addition to the Fiji Suva Mission Office, it houses a distribution center for church supplies, a patron housing center for people coming to the temple from far away or from other islands and for missionaries waiting to leave Fiji on their missions, a family history center, and a service center which handles the business transactions for the Church in Fiji. 

I have a beautiful view from my office window.

Every day when I come out of the office, I get to see the Fiji Suva Temple. My companion and I attend a session there once a week. The clouds are beautiful in Fiji—always gathering for the next gentle, or not so gentle, rain. 

The Mission President’s home, Temple President’s home, and Temple Missionary Apartments form the bottom of the “U.” The Mission President’s home is lovely and big and is used extensively for Zone Conferences, Zone Leader Training Meetings, welcome dinners, and going away dinners. I don’t know how the mission president and his wife do all they have to do. He is also the president of the district (all the branches that are not part of a stake). Pictured here is the side of the mission president’s home. 

We stayed in the Temple Patron Housing for the first two weeks while we waited for our apartment to be vacated by another missionary couple. Here are some photos of the kitchen, living room (I slept on the couch), and dining room (where I studied). It was very comfortable and very handy since it was in the same building as our office. 

We attended church that first Sunday in Samabula. There were people of all cultural backgrounds: Fijian, Tongan, Indian Fijian, Korean, Samoan, etc. A little 10-year-old girl played a simple accompaniment for two of the hymns and did very well. She just beamed when we complimented her. There were not many hymn books available, but everyone sang with gusto and seemed to know all the words. The talks were all well-prepared, doctrinally sound, and given by the Spirit.  
While living there, two of our young missionaries had completed their missions and we gave them a farewell dinner and had a lovely testimony meeting with them. Elder Olson’s parents had come to visit all the villages where their son had taught the gospel. 

Sister Khattri was a convert from India. She had a Christian grandmother, but grew up in a non-Christian home. She studied the Bible diligently and she prayed to find the church described in the New Testament with prophets and the authority to baptize and bestow the Holy Ghost. She got very discouraged as she went from church to church until the elders came to her door after she offered another desperate prayer. Prior to coming on her mission, she helped about 30 people come into the Church. She was an effective missionary in Fiji, especially among those who spoke Hindi Fijian, whose ancestors had been indentured servants on sugar cane plantations. Over 40 percent of the population in Fiji is of Indian descent. 

The next week was intense. Sister Whiting taught me non-stop and I took notes voraciously and typed them up in the evenings—17 single-spaced typewritten pages. My head was swimming. How was I going to remember it all? This is the Lord’s work for God trusts old women like me who have no accounting background to handle the finances for a whole mission! Amazing! To add to my challenges, this is a cash society. I am almost daily going to the bank to get more cash for the mission. Then I send (telegraphic money order—TMO) it to the missionaries who need it for boat fare, truck hire, utility bills, etc.
Here are Elder and Sister Whiting at their going away dinner and testimony meeting. Now my “final exam” begins—when I am on my own to do the work. They are pictured with the Assistants to the President (AP’s), Elders Palmer and LeDoux, also wearing the typical sulu.

 While we stayed at Temple Patron Housing we got to meet Brother Joeli Kalougata and his story is in the October 2004 Ensign called "The Last Survivor". Go to lds.organd read it. It tells of his father’s conversion to the church, his family all drowning on the way to their baptism, and his struggle as a teenager to find out about the church his father wanted his family to join. He was staying at Temple Patron Housing with his wife and daughter who was departing for the Utah South Mission. She is their fourth child to go on a mission. They have two left at home. He is a branch president where they live. This is so typical of the Fijian members: every child going on a mission.

The people are very friendly and warm. Wherever we go, people greet us cheerfully. They say, “Morning, morning” or Good Morning, or Bulabula with big beaming smiles. No one looks away to avoid eye contact. Even when we don’t see them, they catch our attention with their cheery hellos.
I am learning to drive on the left side of the road—like in England. It is a bit unnerving. I sit on the right to drive. Right turns are like left turns—across a moving lane. Left turns are the easy ones. There are lots of roundabouts which work very efficiently. Sometimes they are no more than a four-foot wide raised circle in the middle of an intersection. Most streets are just two lanes with the usual dividing lines down the middle. I feel like I am driving about a foot away from oncoming traffic. If I brake or hesitate to figure out my direction, I am sure to hear a honk. The general mode of transportation is by foot, bus (open air generally) and taxi. Since most people do not drive, pedestrians cross anywhere and often don’t look for cars. At night it is very hard to see them if they have dark shoes and clothing on. Here is our little car that we rent from the church. It is a Toyota Yaris. I don’t think they have that model in the states. 

I love it here and I encourage everyone to go on a mission when they retire. The need is great. I also encourage single sisters to go with someone they know like I did. Otherwise they might be alone a lot and it would not be as satisfying an experience. My companion is the mission nurse and there is a great need for nurses in the mission field. There are quite a few senior missionaries in this mission—many on little islands surrounding Fiji. In our mission, there are four senior office workers, lots of Missionary Leadership Support couples (out on the islands), a perpetual education couple who give out scholarships to young adults, a couple to work with the seminaries that goes from island country to island country, a couple teaching school teachers at the LDS school, a couple who serve as internal auditors, a couple over Temple Patron housing, a Temple President and his wife, couples who are temple workers, and a couple who work with Young Adults. That is nearly 30 seniors. Amazing.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

I Wait for My Visa

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 I Wait for My Visa
July 18 to 24, 2013

Our wonderful classes at the Mission Training Center lasted nine powerful days. The teaching was excellent and the spirit was strong. It was a wonderful experience. The last class was July 18 and I was supposed to leave for Fiji on July 20, but my visa had not arrived. My companion and I were finally able to travel on Pioneer Day, Wednesday, July 24th. It was a fitting day for I felt like a pioneer traveling to parts unknown to me out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Elder and Sister Walker and Sister Limburg and I all point to our destination: FIJI! 

While I waited for the visa, I returned to Laura’s home in Provo. I went to the Timpanogos Temple with Aaron’s mother, Karen Nielson. It is beautiful inside: mainly white and lots of light coming through the windows. 

Chandy and Dave had come to Provo to see me off and visit with family. On Friday, July 19th the Nielson and Bair families and I all went to a cute little Pioneer Village in Provo. We all had fun learning about pioneer life. It was the first “outing” for little Violet. She is a very content baby.

We all went to “school” and the grandchildren lined up for their “lesson”.

Each child had to read wise sayings from a little primer book. It is Brooke Bair's turn while Tessa and Ashlyn Bair, and Jane Nielson listen.

Then it was “play” time. Laura and Tate squared off for a stick pull. 
Laura won the first round, but Tate prevailed thereafter.

                                     Grant Nielson made wooden men walk up the ropes.
This is how pioneer children learned to milk a cow.

Elizabeth Nielson was pensive—who knows what a three-year-old ponders about? 

The outhouse, complete with a stuffed mannequin doing his thing, was not fully appreciated by granddaughter Ashlyn Bair. Tate Bair, Jane Nielson, Brooke Bair, Laura and Aaron Nielson look on.

They all had fun in the covered wagon.
Front Row: Tessa Bair, Grant and Jane Nielson, Brooke Bair.
Back Row: Tate and Brig Bair, Elizabeth Nielson, Ashlyn Bair 

The afternoon was spent playing at a park with the splash pad being the main attraction. 
Tessa Bair, Grant Nielson, Tate, Brooke, and Ashlyn Bair, and Elizabeth can all be seen having fun. 

Ashlyn, Brooke, and Elizabeth shiver together in a big beach towel.

All the grand kids show their “attitude” while posing for a group picture. 

Laura with sweet Violet and Chandy relax on the lawn—respite while the dads shepherd the children.

My second Pedicure: My foot is in the black sandal and clockwise from there are the feet
of daughter Laura Nielson, niece Ryn Paxman, granddaughter Ashlyn and daughter Chandy Bair.

We all had fun at Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon. Brig Bair is catching up to cousin Elizabeth Nielson in height. She is seven months older. Tessa Bair and Jane Nielson compare them. 

 Grant and Jane like to climb on the rocks. 

So does Tate. Here he is halfway to the top of the falls. 

Watching the fish is fun for Tessa, Elizabeth, and Brook.

My Final Goodbyes to Family
July 24, 2013

I took one last picture of the family who were together in Utah. No photo shop here—just wiggly kids. 

Here I am with nine of my fifteen beautiful grandchildren. I miss them so much! 

I came down with a nasty sore throat and head cold the night before I left. Chandy and Laura were my angels who helped me pack and then drove me to the airport. Bonnie Paxman, my dear sister-in-law, came to say goodbye. She brought me chewing gum that saved my ears and head from exploding on the three airplane landings: Los Angeles, Nadi and Nausori—both in Fiji.

Here I am with all my luggage—enough stuff to last me 18 months. 

Have passport—will travel. Sister Limburg and I are ready to go. 
She and I became good friends when I moved to Murray, Utah from Chicago when we both were ten. We have kept in touch over the years at high school reunions and through Christmas Letters. Our husbands both died of cancer. She went on two missions with her husband to Guatemala and Chile and invited me to be her companion for her third mission and my first mission. What a great idea!